The Defense Ministry wants its money back. The ministry unexpectedly demanded NIS 6 billion extra for the years 2011 and 2012, simply eliminating the cabinet's decision dating from July to cut the defense budget by NIS 2.7 billion in each of those two years.
Finance officials were taken aback by the demand, not having expected to revisit the defense budget precisely when the entire national budget for 2011-2012 is undergoing its final review ahead of being voted into law. In any case finance officials are categorically opposed to the defense demand.
The Defense Ministry made its demand of the committee discussing the defense budget. The committee's job was supposed to be to grant its imprimatur to the section of the national budget allocated to defense. Its members, who hail from the Knesset Finance Committee the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, hadn't expected to be urged to add NIS 3 billion a year for defense.
Knesset members present at the Sunday meeting of the defense budget committee said they cannot understand why the demand is being made at this late hour. Defense says it wants the extra money to carry out certain projects, they say: The demand could have been raised earlier and presented to finance officials, not to them. Their suspicion is that the defense establishment is trying to pull a "fast one," to get more money by bypassing the Finance Ministry four months after the principles of the national budget had been finalized. The budget had been approved by the cabinet on July 17.
Tomorrow the Knesset Finance Committee is expected to discuss, and theoretically approve, the national budget for the next two years, including the defense budget. But if the defense budget committee withholds its approval, the vote on the whole budget will be delayed. Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni is presently looking for ways to push through the entire budget despite the sudden dispute over money for defense.
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